Going into this year's Legislative Session, the New York State Senate was determined to strengthen Megan's Law concerning the confinement and registration of sex offenders.
One immediate issue was the fact that offenders would start to drop off the sex offender registry as of January 21st. The original Megan's Law had required sex offenders to register with law enforcement officials for 10 years and keep officers posted of their whereabouts. January 21st marked the 10th anniversary of the law, meaning that the registration requirement would start expiring for individual offenders. Officials stated that some 3,500 offenders would no longer be in the registry by the end of 2006 if Megan's Law was not revised.
While the State Assembly had a different proposal from the Senate on how to deal with sex offenders, we did agree this week on extending the current Megan's Law registration period beyond the expiration date of January 21st.
The Senate and Assembly passed legislation (S.6409) to mandate lifetime registration for the most dangerous sex offenders (Level Three offenders), preventing them from coming off the registry. Level Two offenders will be subject to lifetime registration, but may petition for removal from the registry after a minimum of thirty years. Level One offenders (the lowest level) will be required to register for twenty years, and will automatically drop off the registry after twenty years.
I hope this legislation is the first step of many we take in dealing with sex offenders. Other legislation the Senate will introduce this year include bills that would: prohibit sex offenders from being employed in a job that involves substantial contact with children; require sex offenders to verify their address annually on the sex offender registry; increase the penalties for failing to register as a sex offender; make information about all registered sex offenders available online and allow visitors to the site to register to receive e-mail notification when a sex offender moves into a resident’s zip code; and establish a uniform mandatory dissemination practice among law enforcement agencies.
The Senate also passed legislation (S.6325), proposed by the Governor, that provides for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators at a secure treatment facility after they’ve completed their prison sentence in order to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence. Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed laws authorizing the civil commitment of sexually violent predators at the end of their criminal sentences: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the involuntary civil commitment of dangerous persons who are unable to control their behaviors and whose mental illnesses render them a grave risk to the health and safety of the public.